With the growing popularity in fatbiking, the Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling decided to groom the ski trails for biking and host a fatbike race called the Fat Bike Shredfest (PDF flier mirror). I’d normally consider driving to Grayling (about three hours each way) a bit much just for riding my bike, but the weather was looking nice and this photo from Jorden Wakeley made the trails look tempting, so after talking it over with Danielle on Thursday I packed the car and headed out to the race.
This ended up being a super-fun time, with the race course being 4.5 miles (and about 250′ of climbing) per lap, with three laps for the Sport category. Despite starting out in last place (a usual thing for me, I don’t take off very fast) I ended up finishing second (of six — results). This even netted me a nifty aluminum trophy made by 4mile Welding, a fabricator out of Grayling. The trophy was a nice surprise, as in Sport and Beginner classes trophies were only intended for first place winners, but as no one entered the Beginner class its award was used for the second-place Sport racer: me.
The race course conditions were simply incredible: amazingly nice ski equipment-groomed trail eight or ten feet wide. It was smooth, grippy, fast, and just simply fun. Being in the rolling hills around Grayling it was also incredibly beautiful. I don’t normally get to see snow covered hills stretching off into the distance, so this was quite excellent (photo). Except for a couple occasional patches of ice (none of which caused substantial problems) it was almost like riding on a freshly graded dirt road without the gravel.
After the race I had a bit of the provided chili and beer, changed into a dry jersey and base layer, talked to people for a bit, then headed back out for another ride. I tried to cover all of the groomed trails which weren’t included in the race route, and except for one small connector I believe I succeeded. This ride was much slower paced, and just… wonderful. After the social, near-vomiting, fast-paced excitement of the race it was exactly what I needed. During the times I stopped I was amazed at just how comfortable I felt being out there in the woods, a couple of miles from my car, alone. It just felt… right.
The drive to Hanson Hills was slightly shorter than heading to Ray’s, and the money raised is to go towards establishing a full-time fatbike route at Hanson Hills next year. The race fee was a slightly-high $50, but I’m willing to pay that to help kickstart more professionally groomed fatbike routes. If next year there’s a place where I can go to get in 3+ solid hours of outdoor riding on beautiful offroad surfaces like this that’s only about three hours away, I’ll do it. I hope this happens.
I’m really glad I went.
The Strava postings of today’s rides can be found here: the race, the ride.
Here’s some photos from the race (all taken by Justin Andre): 1 · 2 · 3 · 4
Here are the photos that I took while poking around post-race: 1 · 2 · 3 · 4